My students tell me I do this well so I decided to investigate what it is that I actually do. Some of it is conscious and some is intuitive. Here’s what I learnt about my own process.
Holding Space for YOU starts with holding space for ME. That’s a daily practice of me connecting to myself. That’s about me showing up regularly on the dance floor, sometimes at home alone and sometimes with community in class. Holding space for me is about the discipline of my own practice. I notice how I move through the Rhythms and I notice where I get stuck. I spend time researching those stuck places in the dance, through writing and through observing myself in daily life. And it also happens the other way around. I get ‘stuck’ in life. Maybe it’s a situation with my children, or a colleague or I’m stuck in an emotional funk so I bring that to the dance floor and see what’s moving and what’s not moving. My class themes usually arise from this research. Sometimes they come from something else I experience on the dance floor, in the field but even then I explore my perspective and relationship to the ‘thing’ and find a way to distil it for class. So…Before I even arrive to set up my class I have had some sort of personal and physical experience with the Space I am about to open up and Hold.
If I have time during the day of my class, my preparation includes a process of me grounding myself, quietening my mind and returning to my body wisdom. I dance and sit and connect to source. I open myself to self-love and trust of the universe and the manifestation of being a vessel of this work to open the space for the people who come to class to receive what they need for their highest good. If I don’t have time for this at home I do a version of it during the warm-up time.
These are all my processes to assist me to get out of the way and be present and open to allowing the mystery of this work to do it’s thing. When I am centred I am much more resilient to be with whatever comes up. I am clearing myself, aligning myself and grounding myself so I can be available to ‘hold space’.
I used to get easily thrown off balance whilst teaching. Well actually while living too. A dancer might seem disinterested or even leave or someone might have an emotional situation and ‘Salvador the Saviour’ would switch on and ‘help’ this person or Empathetic Emi would over-feel alongside this person. I would get involved in the story. This drained me and most often left me feeling that I didn’t do good enough. I no longer allow myself to get involved in what might be going on. I focus on moving through the 5Rhythms map knowing it has all the medicine they need. I ‘hold’ them by doing the practice. I ‘hold’ them by witnessing their process, allowing it and observing what happens in my own body. This process anchors me and allows the dancers to continue their process. This ‘holding’ of integrity allows space for a silent dialogue between dancer and teacher; a circular energetic. I am available to respond to what is needed on the dance floor without attachment.
When I am clear and activated and centred I am available to ‘hold’ for others. Holding is like receiving a gift I cannot keep. Holding is breathing in and breathing out. Holding is being witness to sacredness, breathing in the dancer’s feelings and experiences with all it’s pain and joy and breathing it out with all it’s pain and joy. Holding is letting ‘stuff’ run it’s natural course. Holding is not rigid, it is fluid and flexible. It’s like having a shower, feeling the class like water, running down my body and into to the earth- filling and emptying. Holding is being the centred one in the room so dancers can go off centre and find their way back home. It’s like a lighthouse reaching from the deep undercurrents all the way to the stars; holding the channel open from earth to sky to support energy moving up and out and in and down. Holding space is letting you know you are not alone. Holding reaches out South and West embracing the group like a giant bear hug or a loving mother circling her arms for you to feel safe in or push against. Holding is holding awareness, staying present to everything that is happening without judgement or assumption or agenda. Holding has intention. My intention is to keep you moving however micro or macro, to keep you safe, to support you to your edge and help you find your way back if you get lost or go too far. The ‘space’ I am holding is the group container, well it’s actually more of a process than a container. I recently taught a workshop outdoors in the vast red sandy country near Alice Springs. The circle of trees surrounding our dusty dance floor held space with me, as did the moon, the sun and the clouds. Nature held space by standing strong and present and constant. I held space by guiding the dancers through the map, the ‘space’ was our journey together; the beginning, middle and end of the workshop as a process. Me, a Tour Guide, keeping everyone moving.
In a studio setting, I like to prepare the space by clearing as much junk out as possible. Clear space, clear mind, fresh start, open possibilities. I don’t have many set up rituals however I do like to smudge to help clear the space and ground me in my body. Sometimes I feel a candle is needed to help hold the space with some gentleness and quiet reflection.
The end of a class can throw me off centre, literally. People asking for music, sharing their experiences, asking me questions. I require a moment to realign after being so open and aware to the group. Sometimes I can do this as part of the group closing circle and sometimes I just need to stand still, close my eyes, breathe and feel where I begin and end. There is usually a lot of energy coursing through me, even emotion that needs acknowledging, releasing or moving. After class I like to brush myself. I just use my hands to briskly brush over my body removing anything I picked up energetically. I have recently started to acknowledge myself for being present and holding space. (a personal pat on the back) and release myself from the role of holding space for others. I come back home to me, not that I ever left, but I guess it’s sort of like clocking off.
The practice of ‘holding space’ is a practice. I am delighted I started really hearing my students feedback about my space-holding and took the time to research my process. I started writing this piece several months ago and have been witnessing my own process and writing bits here and there. I will continue to be fascinated by how my practice of holding space evolves. Essentially though, I learnt that holding space starts with holding it for myself first; being present, witnessing and trusting that we all unfold exactly as we are meant to and being completely ok with that. It is a continuum of being as authentic as possible, moment to moment, breath to breath.
Through my own practice of 5Rhythms since my early 20’s, I have learnt through experiencing on the dance floor that when big, emotional, traumatic, numbing, painful shit comes up, I have the capacity to move through it. I trust that “if I put my body in motion, my psyche will heal itself” (Gabrielle Roth quote) My complete trust in this process and my trust in your ability to meet yourself in these places, radiates some sort of unspoken permission for you to heal, guide, awaken, face and love yourself. This is the space I hold with grace.